A couple of weeks ago, my daughter wrote a blog post called 15 Songs. She'd picked up the idea, apparently, from the drummer of Mayday Parade. He only wrote about ten songs, but she's young and she couldn't cut it down that far. Reading her post, of course, got me thinking about the stand-out songs of my own life. While many of hers hold places of honor because of the bands or musical genres she found through them, my songs are more situational. I'm not sure whether that's a function of age, or is because she's a musician and I'm not.
I've been adding songs as they came to me for a few days, and thus far I only have seven. I'm going to keep carrying that golden notebook and green pen around with me, though, so by the time you're reading this post I may have ten...or twelve.
1. Jessie's Girl isn't my favorite Rick Springfield song by a longshot--in fact, sometimes I kind of wish people would stop calling me from bars when they hear it at 1 a.m. and stuff. But it was the first Rick Springfield song I heard, the one that started the ball rolling. And, if you know me at all, you know that Rick Springfield had a big impact on my life --not over the radio airwaves but by taking a leap of faith and cooperating in and supporting my book about him when I had nothing but a handful of local newspaper clips to my credit. And I'll always love him for the way he treated my daughter in the process.
2. American Pie was my first record. It was on both sides of a 45--you had to flip it over in the middle of the song--and I played it constantly on my plastic record player (trendy 70s goldenrod with a sticker of the Carnuba Hot Wax bear on it). Decades later, the winter my daughter was two, she changed the whole mood of a late night-before-Christmas-Eve retail line when she sat in the cart and sang the song from beginning to end. She claims not to know the words anymore, but I choose not to believe her. I think everyone knows the words to American Pie.
3. Big props to Kris Kristofferson for writing Me and Bobbie McGee, but nobody but Janis should ever sing it. Rain, the open road, a presumably sexy musician...how could you go wrong? Add in the fact that I first heard this song when I was about 12 and that I've always been more of a sucker for the nostalgic "could have been" than the here and now, and this one is a powerhouse for me. On top of that, it always brings to mind this charming story: When my daughter was three, she heard this song on the car radio and asked "Do we know who wrote down this song?" I told her that Kris Kristofferson had, and that he was the same person who'd written down Sunday Morning Sidewalk. "Oh," she responded from her car seat, "we should find out where he lives and tell him 'thank you'." We should, indeed.
4. Bruce Cockburn's Nicaragua would have been my first dance song at the wedding I never had back in the early nineties, but that's not why it makes the list. The whole Stealing Fire album blew me away because there wasn't a wasted word and it evoked such visual imagery along with the music and the message. Though I found it entirely by chance--my college roommate had it on vinyl--this remains my favorite album after nearly thirty years.
5. I'm a little embarrassed to put Hang on Sloopy on this list, and it's not just because it's a dumb song. It's because my connection reaches back to the days when I was playing groupie to a pretty bad campus band back in the 80s, and Hang on Sloopy was their signature song. I mean, really, that says it all, doesn't it? But 24 years later I still can't hear that song without smiling (or sometimes laughing out loud). Porbably everyone should have a brief, hazy drinking-whisky-from-the-bottle-and-dancing-in-dive-bars phase. (Except you, Tori) This song was the soundtrack for mine.
6. The Year 3000 is not only a Jonas Brothers song, it's a fake Jonas Brothers song--a cover of a song from some other little-known band. But it was the first song the Jonas Brothers sang when they appeared on stage and took my daughter's breath away at a concert we went to for her 12th birthday. Every time I hear it, I remember that moment. And, of course, I think there's a strong possibility that Joe Jonas is Rick Springfield's illegitimate son.
7. One night a thousand years ago in another life, I discovered that they'd taken Revolution off the juke box at a litte roadside bar I frequented. It was the last straw in an otherwise generally malcontented night and I went somewhere else. As I approached the door, I heard Revolution playing from inside. The next few minutes changed my life, even though only a handful of people will recognize this story.